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It's Volunteer Appreciation Day in WA

April 21, 2014

OLYMPIA, Wash. - One in three Washington residents makes time for some kind of volunteer activity during the year, and the value of these time contributions totals an impressive $5.6 billion. Today, the state is saying "thanks."

On Volunteer Appreciation Day, Gov. Jay Inslee is honoring 44 people in a ceremony at the Executive Mansion. Almost 2 million others across the state quietly pick their civic or charitable causes and just show up, week after week.

What makes a person give their time and energy for free? For Shelley Jones, it's that she also gets a lot in return, as a member of the League of Women Voters of Pullman.

"It's just been a great resource for me in building my professional skills, learning new ones and also, giving back to my community and really meeting some amazing folks," Jones said.

Jones joined the League as a young mother, interested in how politics affect education and other facets of daily life, she said. Almost 35 percent of Washingtonians volunteer, and the rate is even higher in rural areas than in cities, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The League of Women Voters has about 1,700 members in 20 chapters across the state. They compile nonpartisan election information, attend legislative hearings, register voters and talk to students about civics - all as volunteers.

Annette Holcomb, who first joined the Bellingham-Whatcom County League in the 1970s, said there are opportunities for even the busiest members to participate.

"In our League, there are many ways that people can get involved. Just on a one-time thing - going to the fair, sitting in the sun and registering voters, what could be more fun? - or get involved in a little bit longer-range study," Holcomb said.

The League's research on topics such as immigration, poverty and education helps create its list of legislative priorities to work on, Holcomb explained.

Overall, a typical Washingtonian logs just over 47 volunteer hours a year. Some of the top pursuits are fundraising, collecting and distributing food, and tutoring or teaching.

A list of volunteer centers that pair people with volunteer opportunities is at volunteerwashington.org. Statistics on volunteering (as of 2012) are at www.volunteeringinamerica.gov/WA.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA